Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Black and White Wednesdays: Why you shouldn't be 'surprised' at fermented foods



Not just a " an eloquent protest against the homogenization of flavours and food now rolling like a great undifferentiated lawn across the globe..."

We often come across articles educating us lesser mortals on which food is good for us and why it is good for us. Most of them in the tone of a new discovery, of something we might have been too ignorant to know for our uninitiated, bad-eating-habit selves. After  one starts reading, one realizes that it is yet another 'American' / western discovery. One that many, 'looked-down-upon'  parts of the world take for fresh, normal, healthy, seasonal,  usually sustainable, locally sourced  food and eating habits. Since 'ancient times'.
Idli with a touch of seasoned Tomato and Onion Chutney
Of course, the implication here is that nobody should wrinkle up their noses on foods like Bread, Cheese, Beer, Wine, Chocolate, Coffee and Yogurt. These being gourmet foods that powerful nations and cultures have exalted to an elite status. Plus this food is so good that there is not even a tiny whiff of 'fermentation', and it is far  removed from the important word which is implied here. The very dirty one, 'rotten'. You  will and should however be pardoned for wrinkling your nose and sniffing at foods,  that are fermented and that do not belong to above seven categories and the cuisines they represent in the popular consciousness.

Mostly, food with an entirely different flavour profile, one which has  nourished very different cultures. What comes to your mind? 


Fresh batter poured into idli moulds and a batch of steamed idli's.
This goes to the Black and White Wednesdays # 78 originally created by The Well Seasoned Cook  and hosted this week by My Diverse Kitchen.

For me, it is the humble Idli, made from a ground paste of soaked rice  and black gram. In the hot, tropical, humid climate of the monsoons, our palate quickly adapted to fresh  food, fermented ground pastes steamed into nutritious vegetarian entrees, buttermilk and yogurt  whisked into easily digestible curries, chutneys and cooling summer drinks. It is  unsurprising then that,

We do not have to 'try to bring back' fermentation
We do not have to 'try to revive' an ancient tradition.

It is part of our living culture and tradition.
And it is alive.
And we are not afraid.
And no pun intended.

Plus,  we perhaps do not need a 'Guru' to teach us that!
Again, no pun intended.

In many ways, this reminds me of the  underlying humour regarding Kerala cuisine which touches on the traditional, Malayalee comfort food of sour, coconut-buttermilk chutneys like the Kaalan, Moru Curries and pulisseri's. The Kaalan would never go bad, it would only turn more sour. To balance out the sourness, one just added fresh coconut paste and vice-versa. This back and forth process would end  only when with the curry got over!

So  while experts foment and flog whatever is current and trendy, there are many food traditions and recipes that have  survived the onslaught of over processed, homogenized, frozen, left-over, cliched, fizz and foam! They could perhaps look at something like the Idli... to rise up and leaven, gently ripen to a perfect, tart, sourness and then  be steamed into something truly piquant. Effortlessly. It need not be contrived and unsavoury. The magic is alive. Just check.

27 comments:

  1. Awesome Clicks sri .

    http://www.followfoodiee.com/

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  2. Love ur idly maker stand, beautiful capture Shri.

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  3. 1st time here. What an amazing blog u have. Happy to follow u. Lets keep in touch!

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Madhavi; you have an amazing collection of recipes.

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  4. Awesome pics Shri. Love idlis any day.

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  5. Enjoyed reading the post Shri, and lovely clicks to go with it..

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  6. Thanks FF, Sona, Priya, and Archana!

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  7. Idli adipoli priya Looks soft and perfect.

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    1. Swathi! thanks but you mixed me up with Priya!:-D!

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  8. Love, love, LOVE the spunk and riposte of this post, Shri! Here's to the soured, over-ripe, fermented nature of our existence in the tropical south, indeed! Love also your sometimes unspoken, sometimes highlighted tributes to the kitchen tools and utensils of our cuisine. Elegant :) [deepa [AT] paticheri [DOT] com]

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    1. Thank you Deepa! Blush! Blush!
      We often take for granted why our cuisine has developed the way it has!
      And if often makes me laugh when Mallu friends whisper and wonder why non-mallu's barely touch the pulisseri's and moru curries in their parties! Something very essential to the Mallu stomach, to round-off and end the dinner with a 'soothe'!!!:-D!

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  9. Loved ur idli maker and lovely clicks as always :) Enjoyed ur write-up too:)

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  10. luv dat idli stand so cute n idlis luks really soft n fluffy..beautiful..

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  11. Interestingly,many people ar not aware of the benefits of fermented foods even if they have been eating it for ages. I met an SI couple last month who had given up their idli dosa for rotis as they thought roti is healthier and rice is not. They were surprised to hear what I told them. So knowledge is always good :-)

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    1. True! We often forget 'moderation' and commonsense in every sphere, including our diets!

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  12. Oh wat a tempting post...my first visit here n just amazing blog....am ur new follower n wil kee visiting ur blog:)

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    1. Thank you for dropping by Sireesha!

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  13. You made the black and white Wednesday quite colorful. Love this post.

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  14. You made the black and white Wednesday quite colorful. Love your space. Nice click and write up.

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